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Hillary Clinton to Visit Burma Next Month

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In a major new diplomatic initiative, U.S. President Barack Obama is sending Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Burma next month.

Clinton's visit to Burma will be the first visit to the isolated country by a U.S. secretary of state in more than 50 years. Mr. Obama made the announcement on the Indonesian island of Bali, saying the U.S. is responding to what he called “flickers of progress” from the Burmese government, which ended decades of military rule in March when it brought in a civilian parliament.

The American leader specifically mentioned steps taken to open a dialogue with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the release of some political prisoners and the opening of the political environment. He said that “if Burma continues to travel down the road of democratic reform, it can forge a new relationship with the U.S.”

Mr. Obama said he had spoken by phone with Aung San Suu Kyi for the first time earlier and confirmed that she supports American engagement “to move the process forward.”

The president said that on her trip, Secretary Clinton will explore what the U.S. can do to support progress on political reform, human rights and national reconciliation. She will travel to Burma on December 1-2, making stops in Rangoon and Naypyitaw.

Mr. Obama cautioned that despite the apparent progress, Burma will need to go further with reforms to have a new relationship with the U.S. He cited ongoing concerns about Burma's closed political system, its treatment of minorities, its holding of political prisoners and relationship with North Korea.

Mr. Obama's announcement on Burma is the most significant U.S. policy move on the country in years. The U.S. and other western nations have for decades imposed sanctions on the country for its human rights abuses and failure to enact democratic reforms.

Article by VOA News